Packing for an International Move

Preparing to pick up and move an entire household to a new country can be a frightening prospect. It requires some careful planning and as much time as you can give it, but it is not without its bright side. This may be the best opportunity you’ve ever had to clean house from top to bottom; take a critical look at what you have, and decide whether you really want to take it all with you.

You may be influenced by the cost of shipping large quantities. Some employers place restrictions on the size of household shipments, either by weight or volume, or by excluding certain larger items. Before deciding what to include in your household shipment, it is advisable to check with your employer whether any such restrictions will apply in your circumstances. On the other hand, you do not want to strip away everything that you associate with home, or your new dwelling will not seem familiar and welcoming.

As with any decision-making, the more information you have the easier it becomes. If you are making a pre-assignment trip, this is a good opportunity to do some research: What is the climate like? It may not be a good idea to take anything especially valuable or irreplaceable which could be sensitive to changes in climate. Humidity and temperature may not be friendly to fine furniture, books, and art. Antiques could disintegrate in arid locations. How big is your new home likely to be? Will your large furniture items and appliances fit? What is the electrical standard? Will your existing appliances work? Will you be able to purchase household and other items in your destination country? If not, is there anything you should purchase before you leave home and include in your shipment? If you know the length of your assignment and have some expectation of whether you will return home or move on to a new country, this will also help you decide whether you can manage without some things for a while, or whether you should take them with you. Find out whether there may be import restrictions or high duties applied to expensive furniture and appliances.

There are some further general questions you can keep in mind as you sort out the essential items to take with you from those that can safely left behind or disposed of: Do you really need this to live comfortably abroad? Would it be better not to take this? If you don’t take it, will it be safe in storage? Do you know where our next move will be? Will you need this in the future or when you return home?

Remember, you want to make both the move and your life abroad as uncomplicated as possible. Try not to be overburdened by nonessential possessions, but keep in mind that you are creating a home away from home.

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